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Orthodox Christian extremism: theoretical background and implementation (ideology and practice)

27-327 | Thursday, 3:30 p.m. | HS 5
Panel Chair: Liudmyla Fylypovych

Though mass media attention concentrates on Islamic extremism, the XXth century has provided numerous examples of Orthodox Christian extremism. The XXIth century demonstrates an explosion of neo-pagan and Orthodox extremist views in Russia grounded on syncretic theory of the "Russian World". Used as an ideology and mass manipulation tool, Russian Orthodoxy becomes a form of totalitarisation of all life's spheres, a threat to civil society. This fundamentalist system is currently implemented in the political life of Russia and neighboring countries. The religion-based "Russian World" does raise national pride, promotes national and religious identification of Russians, but for other peoples, even those of Orthodox faiths, it has become potentially conflicting because it considers Russian Orthodoxy superior to others religions and its believers having special right for ultimate truth and persecutes other religions by legislative prohibition, seizure of churches, physical destruction of clergy and believers. The most expressive manifestations of today's Orthodox extremism are the justified-by-religion crimes in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Liudmyla Fylypovych

Religious ideology that ruins the world

The Orthodox church-Russian state doctrine "Russian World" has become the ideology of modern Russian neo-imperialism used to re-conquer countries liberated from the Soviets in 1991. The heart of "Russian World" is national Orthodox Christianity. In 2014, the Russian People's Council adopted the "Russian Identity Declaration" which states: "Every Russian shall be an Orthodox", thus violating human rights and freedoms. "Russian World is where Russians are!" - This geopolitical justification was used during the annexation of the Crimea and Donbas, where Moscow “protected” Russians as co-religionists, and can be used in any country. The separatist regions of the Donbas have declared Russian Orthodoxy as their "state religion". Other religions are prohibited, their believers persecuted and discriminated. The Donbas gang "Russian Orthodox Army" systematically closes non-Orthodox churches. This social experiment creates Russian national and religious dictatorship in the conquered region – an occurrence Europe has not seen for centuries. The World awaits for new “initiatives” from the Orthodox president.

Anatoliy Kolodnyy

"Russian World" - the spiritual foundation of Russia’s imperial politics

The forerunner of today's "Russian World" was the XVth century Orthodox Christian ideology of "Moscow - the Third Rome". Its goal was the legitimization of its claims to the Byzantine legacy justified via the concept of a special spiritual mission of Moscovia. With the rise of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1589, the concept became a guiding ideology of national policy (later implemented in the imperial credo of "Orthodoxy -- Autocracy -- Nation"), and its hostility to Catholicism and other denominations. After the collapse of USSR, the Russian Orthodox Church found itself to be the only Russian institution that had maintained and controlled the entire space of the former tsarist and Soviet empires. Justifying its actions with the legacy of "historical Rus'", the Moscow Patriarchy actively, often aggressively, spreads and imposes the "Russian World" to all peoples which have been involved in the history of Russia, including other religions' believers. The goal of "Russian World" is the return of imperial grandeur.

Vyacheslav Ageyev

Neo-paganism and Russian Orthodoxy – an explosive mix of religion and ideology

Neo-pagan ideas reach hundreds of thousands people in former-USSR countries. This aggressive pseudoreligion of "Russian World" is popular among youth, used in the persecution of other religions' believers and ethnic minorities in Russia, and among bands fighting in Ukraine like Russian Orthodox Army. It incorporates “pagan” cryptohistory, pseudo-Vedism (similar to German Nazis Ariosophy with swastica cult and rune symbolism), xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, a popular blend with Russian Orthodoxy, seeming theologically impossible at first glance, but providing an easy ideology, that justifies aggression much better than Orthodoxy with its moral and commandments like “Thou Shall Not Murder”. Russia’s attempts to establish neo-paganism and its blend with Orthodox Christianity as a political religion armed with revanchism and notions of religious and racial superiority constitutes a great danger for neighboring states: it can be exported into Russian-speaking communities and used as combatant ideology, as the war in Ukraine has shown.

Jonathan Cahana

Transformation and Accommodation: Proto-Orthodox Christianity as an Adaptive Reform of Gnosticism

The emergence of Christianity is frequently portrayed as the result of a continuous struggle and conflict both between and within competing parties. The classical approach sees an early pure and unified Christianity from which heresies later splinter. Walter Bauer proposed a different influential scheme: a conflict between competing simultaneous Christianities. Much more recently, Karen King suggested that “heresy,” and specifically “Gnosticism,” never existed except as a rhetorical term that was nevertheless crucial in the development and demarcation of normative Christianity. Engaging the arguments of both Bauer and King, I will attempt a new paradigm: reading Christianity as an adaptive reform of Gnosticism. Since recent research has emphasized how Christianity celebrates but simultaneously accommodates most its subversive elements (e.g. Loughlin, 2), I will attempt an understanding of Proto-orthodox Christianity as adaptive transformation of an original subversive gnostic Christianity made in order to reduce its tensions with the surrounding Greco-Roman culture.